Monday, October 16, 2017

Good Morning and Happy Monday to Everyone!

Yeah, I know a lot of people don’t look forward to Mondays, but this particular one is kind of special for me. It’s my first time here at the Heartwarming Blog. For posting, that is. I’ve stopped by often in the past to read and enjoy the different offerings by the amazing authors who call this place home (waving a big hello to my friends).

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to be a member of the Heartwarming family. Thank you everyone for the warm welcome. I’ve been a Harlequin author since 2005 when I first sold to the line that was then called American and later changed to Western. After thirty-plus books, I’m sorry to say the line closed. My last Western book, The Bull Rider’s Valentine, will be available January 2018.

Luck, however, was very much on my side, and I’m now writing for Heartwarming. Anyone who’s familiar with me knows I love contemporary western romances, and I’ll be continuing to write those for Heartwarming. I don’t have a release date or title yet for my first Heartwarming book, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

If you’re at all interested about me, I can tell you I’m the mother of grown twins, a boy and a girl who are both out of the house and on their own (mostly). I’m also fairly newly married. I re-met my husband at our high school reunion several years ago and we tied the knot this past December. It’s truly my personal romance story come true ☺. I have an obnoxious cat for a muse (Ozzy pens his own mini-column in my monthly newsletter) and a special needs dog I’m convinced loves my husband more than me even though I’m the one who feeds him. While I don’t have any horses these day, I did own and ride them from the time I was a teenager until a few years ago and embraced the country way of life right down to raising chickens and growing my own vegetables.

But, seriously, that’s more than enough about me. Tell me something about yourself. I love connecting with readers and hearing about you, what you like to do, your families, and especially what you like to read.

Warmest wishes,

Cathy McDavid
www.cathymcdavid.com
www.facebook.com/cathymcdavidbooks
www.twitter.com/cathymcdavid

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sit Down Saturday: 5 Words for Smoky Mountain Sweethearts by Cheryl Harper

The first book in my new series set at the Otter Lake Ranger Station is Smoky Mountain Sweethearts. Let me tell you about it in 5 words (and if you believe that I have oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you).

Brave. My hero is a forest firefighter working at a nature reserve. He dreams of bigger challenges. My heroine is a widow desperate to find a part of herself she'd lost. 

Stubborn. Neither one of them gives up easily and neither one of them accepts a loss easily. The biggest time that's a problem? When they're going head to head in a race up the mountains.

Beautiful. I've lucky enough to have spent some time tromping through state and national parks with a camera, so it was easy to dream up a nature reserve that combined some of the prettiest places I've seen and some I'd like to see someday soon.

Romantic. Romance comes in a lot of different packages. Sometimes it's candlelight and roses. It could also be a moonlit walk to see otters.

Hopeful. This is one I hope applies to every story I write, but I have a hero afraid he'll never break out of his small home town and then afraid he'll lose everything when he does. But it's going to work out. Then there's a woman who's lost the husband she'd made all these plans with and a piece of herself, the piece that drove her to take risks and live life fully. But Averycan go home again, and surrounded by the people who really know her, she can find that part of her that she loves. 

If you're looking for a any of these words, consider Smoky Mountain Sweethearts. Here's the blurb:

How close is too close to the flame? 

Sam Blackburn excels at fighting fire with fire in Tennessee, whether it's putting out deadly forest blazes or rescuing his old friend, widow Avery Montague, who's lost her nerve on a steep mountain cliff. What happened to the daring, adventure-loving teenager who wasn't afraid of anything? As kids, Avery was always pushing Sam to be brave, to be better, so he's ready to return the favor. Except he's up for his dream job in Colorado as a hotshot smoke jumper, and he can't be in two places at once. His future is fraught with risk, but what's the point of living if you don't take chances? He just wants Avery to find the courage to go after what she wants, and he's hoping it's him…

And an excerpt:
The thing about epiphanies was that they never came when Avery wanted them to. After nearly a solid week of living under her mother’s extremely watchful eye, it had become clear they both needed a break from all their new togetherness.
Borrowing the car had been her first step to freedom. When her mother asked for a destination, only one place came to mind. It had been ten years since she’d made the easy hike up to Yanu Falls inside the park, but she would never forget the exhilaration of standing on the cliff that overlooked the falls which led to a cove of Otter Lake.
Since her mother was hovering again, Avery had grabbed a water bottle, waved her cell phone, and said she’d be back that afternoon. After so many years of living in the city, even driving the wide-open road winding up to the Otter Lake trailhead rolled off the weight of years.
The first inkling that not everything would go according to her plan was when she’d collapsed, panting, on the first bench along the trail, the one she and her friends had always called “Better Off Dead.”
Because anyone who had to stop there to rest already had one foot in the grave.
She and her friends had been punks, obviously.





Friday, October 13, 2017

We Love October! | by Loree Lough and Cerella Sechrist

Since neither of us has a book due this month, we decided to focus on … October!

Photo by Kathleen Redden (used with permission)

The Old English name for the month is Winterfylleth, which refers to winter’s full moon. October’s birth stone is Red Tourmaline, and according to legend and lore, the rock promotes healing.

And, as you’re no doubt aware heard, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women. Early detection is of vital importance, so how about celebrating National Make a Difference Day (October 28th) a little early by scheduling a mammogram on or before the 20th … National Mammography Day. It could literally save your life. (For information about imaging centers in your area, or you need help paying for a mammogram, contact the American Cancer Society at 1.800.227.2345 or visit http://www.cancer.org or http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-awareness-month )



What the American Cancer Society wants you to know:

· A woman’s chance of developing breast cancer is 1 in 8.

· All women are at risk for breast cancer.

· An estimated 200,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States this year.

· Men can get breast cancer too: About 2,500 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year

· Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in women.

· About 40,000 breast cancer deaths are expected this year. Don’t become a statistic!

· Stay healthy: maintain a healthy weight, exercise, and reduce alcohol consumption.

· Early detection saves lives; the American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms starting at age 40.


October 19th is National Seafood Bisque Day. What kind of friends would we be if we didn’t share a delicious seafood bisque recipe?


~~~



And did you know that that we celebrate National Dessert Day on the 14th and National Chocolate Cupcake Day on the 18th? Well, now that you do…there’s dessert!




By the way? In celebration of October 16th, National Dictionary Day, we looked up the words knock-knock, because the 31st is…you guessed it: National Knock-Knock Jokes Day!



***

Knock-knock!

Who’s there?

Ya.

Ya who?

We’re happy to see you too!

***

Knock-knock!

Who’s there?

Orange.

Orange who?

Orange you gonna open the door?

***

Speaking of doors, we can’t think of a more perfect opening to announce this month’s prize. Simply comment below, and on October 27th, we’ll randomly choose the lucky winner of a $20 Amazon e-gift card!



Oh. And one last thing: The 29th is National Hermit Day. Why not plan to spend it with a good book (we’ve suggested two, below <g>) and a pumpkin spice latte!


Until next month, we wish you beautiful weather!

About Loree:

With nearly 7,000,000 books in circulation, best-selling author Loree Lough's titles have earned numerous 4- and 5-star reviews and industry awards. She splits her time between her home in Baltimore and a cabin in the Alleghenies (where she loves to show off her “Identify the Critter Tracks” skills). She has 115 books in print. Loree loves to hear from her readers and answers every letter, personally. Visit her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and www.loreelough.com!




About Cerella:

 CERELLA SECHRIST lives in York, Pennsylvania with two precocious pugs, Darcy and Charlotte, named after Jane Austen literary characters. Inspired by her childhood love of stories, she was ten years old when she decided she wanted to become an author. These days, Cerella divides her time between working in the office of her family’s construction business and as a barista to support her reading habit and coffee addiction. She’s been known to post too many pug photos on both Instagram and Pinterest. You can see for yourself by finding her online at www.cerellasechrist.com. A Song for Rory, Book #2 in her "A Findlay Roads Story" series, is her fourth Harlequin Heartwarming novel.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Revisiting Children's Books as a grown-up by Amie Denman

My sister who lives in another state came to visit last weekend. It was a wonderful weekend of catching up and renewing the kind of friendship that never runs dry. One of the things we chatted about was her book club. She's an avid reader and belongs to two different book clubs. She told me about their process for choosing books and how reading new things has opened her mind. Here's the fun part, though.

One of her book clubs has decided to read a string of beloved children's books! 

Their first on the list is Charlotte's Web. What a fantastic idea! The very thought of re-reading books I loved as a child takes me back to summer days lying on my bed and tuning out the world. If you belonged to a book club that chose to revisit childhood favorites, what books would you pick? Here are some of mine:



Just thinking about all these books makes we want to get them out and read them all over again! I learned so much about life, love, family, and taking chances from these books and many others. No wonder I became a writer!

Did you love these books, too? Which children's books would you choose for your book club friends to enjoy?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Heartwarming Holiday Wishes by Carol Ross and Amy Vastine

We know everyone is gearing up for fall - Halloween, Thanksgiving, and everything pumpkin spice, but Carol and I are all caught up in the Christmas spirit. Why, you might ask? Well, we are celebrating the release of our Christmas anthology Heartwarming Holiday Wishes. We're thrilled to be part of these ten Christmas novellas written by some of our favorite, bestselling Heartwarming authors! 

All of the Holiday Wishes stories are set in Christmas Town, Maine. This is our third trip to Christmas Town, where it's Christmas all year round. We would love for  you to come visit our new website dedicated to our holiday-inspired town. Besides learning about all of the stories, we have fun coloring pages and character descriptions. We hope you'll stop by www.heartwarmingchristmastown.com and look around!
Carol's story is called Gingerbread Girl. It’s about two childhood friends turned frenemies, turned enemies, turned friends again, until finally… Let’s just say that they finally figure out how fine that line is between love and hate. Here's the back of the book blurb:

Kinley Reed and Ian Mackey’s teenage rivalry-friendship was both frustrating and bittersweet. After he crushed her heart, Kinley was glad to see Ian go. But now he’s back. Both successful architects, they soon find themselves in competition once again. Ian also needs Kinley’s help to save his troubled sister. Can Kinley set the past aside? Will Ian finally win the love of his gingerbread girl?

Amy's story is called A Case For Christmas Magic and it's about a internet vlogger, who hates Christmas. He's come to Christmas town to bring it down. Only, he meets a local tour guide who's determined to prove to him Christmas magic is real. Here's the back of the book blurb:

Boyd Austin hates Christmas but comes to Christmas Town to bust it’s myths and folklore for his internet vlog. Clara Burke loves Christmas Town and will do just about anything to increase tourism so she can get a promotion at work. Can she convince him Christmas magic really does exist before he tries to take down her town and cost her a job?


These are only two of the amazing stories in the set. Did we mention it's only 99 cents right now? It is! Ten stories by ten Heartwarming authors for less than a dollar. We hope you'll check it out!

 Heartwarming Holiday Wishes is available at the following:

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2u6UHFb

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ode to Pioneer Romance Authors by Virginia McCullough

For three years, I had the privilege of working at the Rockland Public Library in the small mid-coast town of Rockland, Maine. I won’t say exactly how long ago it was, but I was young and the classic oak card catalogue and a date stamp machine were not. Our fulltime staff of five did a little of everything, from circulation to cataloging. My “specialties” included something called “readers’ advisory,” which meant, among other things, choosing books for those unable to visit the library in person. Volunteers then delivered shopping bags of books to retirement or care facilities or to the readers’ homes.


Over the years, I met many dozens of women who read all kinds of romance. They cherished their favorite authors, who just happen to be on the long list of writers who paved the way for all of us in the broad romance genre. My coworkers and I created waiting lists for these authors’ new releases, and in some cases we bought more than one copy, a big deal for an under-funded, small-town library.

Remember Eleanor Hibbert? Me, neither. But I do remember Victoria Holt, a pioneer in gothic and suspense romance (The Shivering Sands, India Fan); Philippa Carr, author of historical romances (Daughters of England, a 20-book series); and Jean Plaidy, who also wrote historicals. These books were perpetually checked out or on reserve, and some of the shut-in readers would ask me to pick out anything by Holt, Carr, or Plaidy.


Another British author, Catherine Cookson (The Lady on my Left, The Bonny Dawn) wrote over 100 books. I recall dragging out glue and tape in our “book ER” as we tried to hold her books together just a little longer. (Cookson suffered a genetic bleeding disorder and other illnesses, which caused great hardship in her life, recounted in a memoir found after her death, Before I Go.)

We also had long waiting lists for books by a Mainer, Elizabeth Ogilvie (The Tide Trilogy), who wrote 40 books for adults and young readers. She lived On Gay’s Island and rarely came to the mainland, but when she agreed to give a talk at the library, her fans showed up in droves. No one could draw a crowd like Ogilvie.

Who can forget Phyllis Whitney (Spindrift, Amethyst Dreams)? In her104 years, she wrote 70 books for adults and young people. She was labeled the Queen of American Gothic, but she described her work as “romantic novels of suspense.” Now a subgenre all its own. Born in Japan to American parents, this trailblazer had a penchant for exotic locations. She also wrote Guide to Writing Fiction—I read this long ago and loved it.


In the 1990s, when I lived in Asheville, North Carolina, I was driving to a speakers’ conference in Florida but ended up seeing a highway exit sign for St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. Hmm…it sounded vaguely familiar. Curious, I went to have a look and soon realized I was visiting the adopted home of the wildly popular author, Eugenia Price (St. Simon’s Trilogy), and many other books based on historical figures in the region. I ended up visiting the lovely churchyard where she’s buried, now a regular stop for tourists-fans. Price is given great credit for boosting tourism on the island.  


In a case of serendipity, that day I learned about an annual writers’ conference held on St. Simon’s Island and attended every year thereafter until I moved to Wisconsin in 2001. I met so many wonderful romance writers and had a pitch session with an agent, whose agency later represented one of my nonfiction titles and now represents my fiction.  All because of Eugenia Price! 

When people ask what inspires me, these pioneers in our genre always pop into my mind. When they began writing, they faced real barriers for women trying to break into the fiction market (let alone garner any respect!). Somehow, they took what was a narrow path to success and independence and bulldozed it to make room for all of us.

Today, romance, in all its variations, remains the top-selling fiction genre. So, thanks Victoria/Jean/Philippa, Catherine, Elizabeth, Phyllis, and Eugenia…and many others!

*****

Virginia McCullough is excited about her January 2018, Heartwarming release, Something to Treasure (available for pre-order), the second of her Two Moon Bay series. (Book 1, Girl in the Spotlight, released in June 2017.) All her novels are stories of the heart and feature characters who could be your neighbors and friends struggling with everyday life issues. Drawn to the water herself, Virginia’s fictional towns almost always include oceans, lakes, or rivers.

Born and raised in Chicago, Virginia spent years as a ghostwriter, producing more than one hundred books for physicians, business owners, professional speakers and many others with information to share or a story to tell. She’s moved around a lot, and a few years ago she landed in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she enjoys hanging out with other romance writers, walking on trails, and downing mugs of dark roast at local coffeehouses. Her other award-winning romance and women’s fiction titles include The Jacks of Her Heart, Amber Light, and The Chapels on the Hill. Virginia is always working on another story about hope, healing, and second chances. For more information, visit www.VirginiaMcCullough.com.

Monday, October 9, 2017

My Kind of Collecting by Cheryl Harper

Some people have priceless art collections.
Others build extensive, impressive wine cellars with rare vintages meant for special occasions.
There are fans who collect expensive dolls or action figures or baseball cards or stamps or even first editions of things everyone here loves...books!

Me, I have 2 "collections" in my house. Both are built on the places I've been.
I have two aunts who both encouraged my interest in travel. One brought me a new ornament every year and most of the time it came from a great vacation that sparked my interest. Those are the ornaments I hang on my tree.

And the other collection I started for myself. Magnets. Easy. Every souvenir shop and tourist trap has them. They have a purpose and liven up my trips to the refrigerator. In one of my moves, I lost some that I still regret, but each new trip gives me a chance to build on my collection.

It's been a long year of only work and work and work, so I spend a great deal of time right now daydreaming about vacations.
There's a shady lake and a lawn chair waiting for me close by, I hope. Until then, I think about my last "Don't Be Crabby" trip to the beach every time I reach for a Diet Coke.

What about you? Have any special collections? What do you pick up to mark the special places you visit?

If you're in desperate need of a getaway that doesn't take a plane ticket or bug spray, how about a visit to the Otter Lake Ranger Station? It's in east Tennessee, in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains. You can spend time with a daredevil firefighter and his old rival who has lost her way. Smoky Mountain Sweethearts is out right now. I'm also giving a few copies away. Check my Facebook Page for more details.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Sit-down Saturday with Kate James

Welcome to Sit-down Saturday! Today we’re celebrating the release of A Priceless Find, a sequel to the award-winning A Child's Christmas.


Congratulations on the release of A Priceless Find, Kate! Can you tell us a little about the book?

I would be happy to!

In A Priceless Find, a robbery followed by the discovery of a forgery at a respected art gallery thrusts Chelsea Owens into the center of an investigation headed by Detective Sam Eldridge. The instant chemistry between the high-spirited aspiring curator and the tall, dark, brooding cop is a classic case of opposites attracting; however, complications arise when Chelsea uncovers a connection to an unsolved art heist. Teaming up with Sam to find the stolen paintings worth hundreds of millions of dollars ignites feelings that could lead to lasting love. But Sam isn't ready to move beyond the tragedy in his past, no matter how promising his future with Chelsea could be…

In case you are interested, here are some of the popular retailer links to A Priceless Find:



How did you come up with the story idea for A Priceless Find?

The idea for A Priceless Find has been around for a while. Chelsea Owens, my heroine, first appeared in my November 2014 release, A Child’s Christmas, and she’s been clamoring for her own story ever since. Once you’ve read A Priceless Find, you’ll appreciate that if Chelsea sets her sights on a goal, she goes after it whole-heartedly! In the face of that sort of good-natured determination, I had to give in and write Chelsea’s story.

One aspect of writing A Priceless Find that I particularly enjoyed was fictionalizing the famous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. Although I referred to some of the old masters, the names of their stolen works are fictitious, as are some of the other artists. For readers who are unfamiliar with the Gardner Museum heist, in the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two thieves disguised as Boston police officers stole thirteen works of art, valued at over 580 million dollars. The crime remains unsolved to date, despite the FBI’s ongoing efforts and the offer of a reward recently increased from five to ten million dollars. Should you be interested in learning about the actual heist, you can do so through the Gardner Museum’s website.


Would you share an excerpt with us?

Craning her neck to see inside the jewelry store, Chelsea could make out shattered cases and toppled shelving before her view was obstructed by a tall man wearing a Camden Falls Police Department jacket. He was assisting someone across the room. As they turned toward a seating area, she glimpsed the other person.

     “Oh, no!” Chelsea quickly pulled over to the curb behind a police cruiser. She slammed her vehicle into Park and jumped out. Ducking under the police tape, she rushed toward the entrance.

     “Ma’am!” a police officer who’d been standing by the door called after her. “Ma’am, that’s a crime scene. You can’t go in there!”

     He reached for her, but she evaded his grasp. Her only thought was of Mr. Rochester. “I most certainly can! I’m a friend of the owner’s,” she stated and pushed her way in through the door.

     She couldn’t hold back a gasp when she saw Mr. Rochester. He was sitting on a settee, slumped over, his normally ruddy complexion parchment white. A paramedic crouched in front of him and was working to staunch the flow of blood from a wound on his temple.

     Ignoring the officer who’d followed her in and dodging another who’d moved to intercept her, she ran over to Mr. Rochester. Dropping to her knees next to where the paramedic was, she touched his knee. “Mr. Roch—”

     Before she could finish, a hand clamped around her upper arm and tugged her back up on her feet.

     “Hey!” she started to protest, but the words died in her throat as her eyes met the steely blue ones of the cop she’d seen through the window. He was wearing plain clothes under his CFPD jacket and exuded an air of authority.

     “Miller!” he called, apparently to the cop who’d been outside. “Who is this and how did she get in here?”

     Miller shot Chelsea an exasperated look. “I have no idea who she is, other than that she says she’s a friend of his.” He pointed at Mr. Rochester. “She ignored the tape and ran past me. I tried to stop her…” He glanced down, but not quickly enough for Chelsea to miss the flush spreading from his neck to his cheeks. “She got by me, Detective,” he mumbled. “Sorry.”

    “You’ve got to be kidding,” the detective retorted. “Well, get her out of here.”

     “No. Wait!” Chelsea interjected. The detective and Miller both turned to her, but she barely noticed Miller. There was something commanding in the detective’s eyes, in his bearing. She supposed he was good-looking, in that tough-and-rugged way, but the frown and obvious exasperation in his eyes didn’t do much for his appeal. “It’s not the officer's fault,” she said. "So there’s no point scolding him.”

     The detective raised a brow, and she thought she saw the corner of his mouth twitch.


We understand you've been busy this year?

I released three books this year! In addition to A Priceless Find, Home to Stay, the fourth book in my San Diego K-9 Unit series released in July and Sanctuary Cove released in March.




Any final words you'd like to share?

I'm on a blog tour with Prism Book Tours! Today is the start of the grand finale, and you still have time to enter the giveaway.



Huge thanks to all the wonderful bloggers who welcomed me to their blogs. We're almost in the grand finale phase, but you can still visit any of the stops and enter the giveaway. You can find the full schedule of stops and the description of the prize pack here.

Here's a sneak peek of the grand prize.



How can readers connect with you or learn more about your books?

As always, I love to hear from readers. You can learn about my books and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or my website.

Thank you for stopping by and happy reading!

Kate

Purchase Links for A Priceless Find




Friday, October 6, 2017

Kathleen…In A Nutshell


By Kathleen Scheibling
Senior Editor, Harlequin Heartwarming


Authors, readers, friends—hello! I’m Kathleen Scheibling and I’m the Senior Editor of Harlequin Heartwarming. While I’ve known some of you for years, and had a fabulous time meeting many of you at RWA this past July, you may not know much about me. Here’s a brief summary:


I’m easily influenced. Nutshell by Ian McEwan is on my table beside my laptop, so that’s where I got the title of my blog post. We’re reading Nutshell in my book club. Oh, yeah, I’m in a book club.



I’m an ovo pollo/pescatarian. This is not a new political party, it’s a way of eating. Basically, I don’t eat meat other than poultry and fish. Most of the time I eat like a vegan who has a shellfish addiction. I love to cook and grill all summer long. Here’s a picture of my favorite summer meal:


I watch a lot of films. I love film—especially classic movies. I love going to the theatre (leaving the house!) and watching films in a crowd—as long as they don’t pull out their cell phones. The Toronto International Film Festival recently wrapped here. I saw films from Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Iceland, Finland, Canada and the U.S. My favorite was Ladybird, the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, an American actor who is an indie icon. She’s the tall one on the left.




Speaking of film, I have a crush on this guy. Taika Waititi is charming, handsome, smart and seems like a very silly person. He directed a beautiful film called Hunt for the Wilderpeople – highly recommended! He’s a star in New Zealand and Australia but he’s about to become a big-time Hollywood dude as he directed Thor: Ragnarok. I will go see that because if Taika directed it, it’s going to be funny. Speaking of funny, I like funny.


I’m not afraid of snakes. Especially if they are tiny and hiding in my fire pit. Well, it’s not my fire pit. It was at my campsite in northern Ontario, where I went canoeing this summer. Canoeing is fun, but it’s not funny. Cycling and hiking are also fun, and I do these things a lot. One of the reasons I love summer! Places I canoed, biked and hiked this year include the Amalfi Coast, Italy, North Bay, Ontario, Montreal, Quebec, Massasauga Provincial Park, Ontario, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Just snuck that Amalfi Coast reference in there, didn’t I. I went to Italy last May. It was the greatest place ever. Why? Shellfish. (And octopus, sorry.)


Well, that’s me in a nutshell. I’m looking forward to getting to know all of YOU!

Kathleen


Kathleen Scheibling has worked at Harlequin since 2001. She’s been an editor for Harlequin Superromance, Harlequin Special Edition, Harlequin American Romance / Harlequin Western Romance, and Harlequin Everlasting. Kathleen is currently the Senior Editor of Harlequin DARE, Harlequin Heartwarming and a whole bunch of other stuff.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Why Love Is Important by Tara Randel





When I had the idea of what I would write for this month’s blog post, I had recently come out of the hurricane Irma experience. Let’s just say there were two weeks during the month of September that were very stressful. Between the build-up of the approaching storm and the high panic level, and then the actual storm and the power outages afterward, I couldn’t really tell you where the time went. 

But since the massive event, other catastrophes have taken place. Another hurricane devastated Puerto Rico. And then, the shooting in Las Vegas. With a little time and space, what we went through in Florida has given us a breather and time to see that some people had it far worse than us.

So I had to rethink my topic. Then I remembered a friend once asking me why I write romance. My answer then, and still today, is that I believe love is the greatest gift of all. I especially love writing for Heartwarming, because we get to place characters in situations that seem impossible to rise above, yet they do, with a lot of character growth, inner retrospection and lots and lots of love. Just like real life. And for those going through hard times, reading a romance novel can be a much needed escape.

Before and after the storm, I experienced the giving spirit that truly shines in people. Yes, there are terrible, awful people in the world. But I came away from the Irma experience with renewed hope in mankind. Here’s why.

1. People are awesome.
Even before the storm when the stores were crowded, people were talkative and friendly, despite the fear. I’ve never had as many positive conversations in the grocery store as I did that week. “We’ll get through this.” “We’re in this together.” 

2. People are kind-hearted.
 After the storm, we saw neighbors helping others cut down trees and clean up damage. While we were much calmer in the aftermath, the conversations in the stores still continued. “How did you do?” “Everyone okay?” “Do you need any help?” 

Watching clips from the shooting in Las Vegas, I saw people rise above the fear to help others. The sense of unity in an emergency is universal. If we love people, we can’t help but get involved to make sure others get through the worst of times.

3. People are helpful.
In my city, people were helping others clean up and then attending to folks who still didn’t have power. While there are always stories of thefts and scams after a major weather event like this, I saw the vast majority of people looking out for others, those they knew, those they didn’t, who now became good friends.

4. People are generous.
Once the storm passed, there were plenty of people who still needed bottled water. I had bought extra, so we gave the cases away to those who had to boil water or still didn’t have power. Many others gave food and even monetary donations to help those who had been impacted by the storm, first here, then in Puerto Rico. The giving spirit showed no bounds.

I read this story a few days after the storm. As a reader and writer, this touched my heart.

A teacher at a local middle school came back to her classroom once the school had cleaned up after being used as an evacuation center. She teaches reading to kids who have difficulty or little interest in books. The white bookshelf in her room, filled with books the students loved, many of them signed by the authors, were gone. Completely gone. To say she was upset and disappointed is an understatement, but she told her students, “I guess the people who took the books needed them more than we did.”

Once word got out, YA authors offered to send copies of their books. The local library made donations. People sent the teacher money or gift cards to rebuild her library. As much as it initially seemed a tragedy, the teacher will likely double or triple the volume of books than before the storm.

Did I mention people are awesome?

The stories go on and on. If you watch the news, you’ve probably heard some of them.  My hope is that this wonderful side of human nature carries on long after Irma, or the other traumatic events, are a memory. Memories none of us should ever forget. We need to care about this world we live in, and the best way to do that is through love, whether in real life or in a book. 

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS ONE AND ONLY BRIDE, available January 2018 and her next Christmas Town novella in the holiday collection, HEARTWARMING HOLIDAY WISHES, available October 10, 2017.  Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Book That Started It All by Anna J Stewart

I can't remember a time I didn't devour romances. Okay, actually, yeah, I can. I didn't discover the romance section of my local used bookstore until I was thirteen. Before then I was reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and various crime novels (hey, it was the 80's and there wasn't much of a YA section then). You'd be hard-pressed to find a picture of me without a book in my hand.

What I can remember is the day I read my first romance. Freshman year of high school and we were taking those ridiculous future defining standardized tests (the ones where I'd fill the scantron form out in pretty patterns like Christmas trees and stars--because the questions bored me). We were told to bring reading material in case we got finished early. Surprise (because how long does it take to fill in a Christmas Tree), I anticipated being done pretty quick. For whatever reason, I didn't have a book to read. Looking back, I see that as a sign because the stars aligned and a friend had an extra romance in her locker. She gave it to me to borrow. And...well, a romance lover was born.

That first book? I went out as soon as I finished reading and found my own copy (and this is it. That actual book from 198...er, you get the idea.)


That's right, more than 30 years later and I still have that original copy. It's been covered with clear contact paper so it survives forever (or at least my forever). I can't explain my joy when I found it at that aforementioned bookstore located only a few blocks from my house in the Sunset District of San Francisco. Forget the Holy Grail. I had my book!

That store became my obsession. They had an entire WALL filled with romances; mostly Harlequins. Romance became my refuge, my chosen world. It might have taken a bit longer to realize I wanted to actually write them, but because of this book, on the right day at the right time, I'm where I am today.

I wish I could fully explain why the romance genre means so much to me. Why it's the main genre I continue to read; why I still look for the "new in romance" tags on websites and blogs. It's like being a gift every single day that I can use to escape.  And that, I think, is the crux of romance for me. It's escapism. It's a world I can fall into and know, no matter how difficult things get for the hero and heroine, that there will be a happily ever after by the time I turn the last page. It is, as author Damon Suede often states, the genre of hope.

If you're like me, you're finding hope and optimism to be in rather short supply these days. I'm an avid TV junkie who has found herself turning off the television far more often these days. My head--not to mention my heart--just can't take it. And so I choose to lose myself in the wonderful romances others have written or, as is the case most days, into my own. Where I can control just about everything I need to. Unless my characters get extra picky in which case, I simply surrender. They know what needs to happen. I trust them.

This week I'm actually not putting new words to the page, but am editing my fourth Butterfly Harbor story, ALWAYS THE HERO, due out in March, 2018. Of all the books I've written in the past few years, this is probably my most personal. It's the heroine I identify most with, so there's more than a bit of my soul on these pages. Writing romances is my way of getting through life and I will end my life being grateful that one day, decades ago, a friend had an extra book in her locker.

That when she handed it to me, I found my dream.

How about you? What was the first romance you ever read? What's your favorite type of happily ever after? Share in the comments! I'd love to hear. And if you want to share your story of how you discovered the genre, please do.


P.S. That copy of Partners, by the way? I took it with me to my first ever Romance Writers of America conference and had it signed by the author. Yes, I burst into tears and couldn't speak to her, because how do you tell someone that because of a book they wrote, you discovered your life's purpose. Books, stories, love...they all have incredible power and I count myself fortunate to wield all three.

Happy reading.
~Anna J

USA Today and national bestselling author Anna J. Stewart writes sweet to sexy romance for Harlequin's Heartwarming and Romantic Suspense lines. Early obsessions with Star Wars, Star Trek, and Wonder Woman set her on the path to creating fun, funny, and family-centric romances with happily ever afters for her independent heroines. Anna lives in Northern California where she deals with a serious Supernatural & Sherlock addiction, surrounds herself with friends and family and tolerates an overly affectionate cat named Snickers (or perhaps it's Snickers who tolerates her). When she's not writing, you can find her at fan conventions or at her local movie theater, or building her client list for her content editing services. You can read more about Anna and her books at www.authorannastewart.com.

Her latest Heartwarming release is A DAD FOR CHARLIE, the third in her Butterfly Harbor series.